Subaru's Petter Solberg and Citroën's Sebastién Loeb go head-to-head in Rally Sardinia this weekend, but having to sweep the stage for their rivals could cost them precious time.

Subaru's Petter Solberg and Citroën's Sebastién Loeb go head-to-head in Rally Sardinia this weekend, but having to sweep the stage for their rivals could cost them precious time.

The current champion Solberg has admitted that in being second to take to the loose gravel, he feared that all the time lost sweeping the road could be to his disadvantage later in the rally.

"Sardinia will be difficult because of my road position," Solberg said. "The surface is very loose, but we've done pretty well on all the gravel events so far this year. We've proved our pace. I hope we can get another win."

With four rallies remaining in the season, the Norwegian has already boosted his chances of retaining his title by winning the last two events in Japan and Wales.

Subaru's team boss David Lapworth indicated that the weather could be an important factor in the team's result. "Compared to what we're used to, Italy is going to be a very different rally this year," he said. "The road surface is fairly sandy, with a hard-packed base, and the stages are narrow and moderately twisty. I expect we'll see speeds of around 90 km/h.

"In terms of weather, we're expecting warm temperatures, with the risk of some autumn showers. The first stages in Argentina and Mexico had a similar feel to those of Sardinia, and we were very competitive there, which is a good omen."

Loeb plans to be his competitive self at the weekend and needs to end the rally 31 points ahead of Solberg to claim the ultimate prize. Being the firstsss on the stage could disrupt his plans though.

" will be a big handicap unless it rains, and rain in Sardinia at this time of year seems improbable. I'm a little reserved about my chances of winning," the French star said.

"I had never been to Sardinia prior to our tests there, but I must say I like what I saw," Loeb said. "We found that the hard-packed gravel didn't cut up that much, and the test stage was quite narrow. There was also some hard braking and it could be easy to make a mistake.

"In Wales I showed that my championship lead didn't prevent me from going to victory when the chance cropped up. In Sardinia I'll stick to my usual tactics - push hard from the start and do my best, reviewing the situation after the first loop. If the wise option is to go for points, then I will go for that."